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China, Japan start impressively at Women's Basketball Asia Cup

© Provided by Xinhua

SYDNEY, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Pre-tournament favorites China and Japan flexed their muscles at the FIBA Women's Basketball Asia Cup here after recording convincing victories on Monday.

China, world No. 2, started their quest to end a 12-year continental title drought with a crushing 89-44 win over 44th-ranked Lebanon.

After finishing runners-up at last year's World Cup, China returned to Sydney Olympic Park with a dominant performance highlighted by a brilliant 22-2 third quarter.

Towering Han Xu was unstoppable inside the paint to finish with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Li Meng, who starred at last year's World Cup, had 12 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.

© Provided by Xinhua

"We had limited time to train together as a whole and adapt to each other's styles," Han said after the game about China's preparation. "As for the Asia Cup, I think we need to strengthen our defense in the following games."

Lebanon provided an early fight and was inspired by their best player Rebecca Akl, who scored 9 of her 13 points in a dynamic first quarter.

South Korea, who have won a record 12 Asia Cup titles, were expected to be China's toughest challenger in Pool A, but a slow start proved costly as they trailed by 16 points at half-time against New Zealand.

South Korea, world No. 12, stormed back into the contest only to fall short when New Zealand star Penina Davidson scored the game-winning bucket with 25 seconds left.

Davidson produced a Herculean performance with 24 points and 10 rebounds, playing every minute of the nerve-jangling contest.

"I'm very proud of the girls and our program for the great start to the tournament," Davidson said.

Five-time defending champions Japan eased past Chinese Taipei 94-53 to open Pool B action.

© Provided by Xinhua

Japan struggled to shake their gritty opponents in a competitive first half before gaining a stranglehold of the contest.

Stephanie Mawuli was a standout with 18 points and 9 rebounds as Tokyo Olympic silver medallists Japan aim to rebound after a lackluster World Cup finish of ninth.

"We had a perfect start to the Asia Cup, but there are things we need to keep working on for the following games," Mawuli said.

Lin Yu-Ting (14 points) was the only player to finish in double figures for Chinese Taipei, who will have to bounce back quickly against hosts Australia on Tuesday.

In the night game, Australia utilized their height advantage to devastating effect in a 105-34 thrashing of the Philippines.

A new-look Australia, with just three players from last year's third-placed World Cup team, jumped out of the blocks quickly and intimidated their smaller opponents to lead 30-7 after the first quarter.

But 21-year-old Vanessa De Jesus, who plays for American college Duke University, scored 11 points in two minutes in a desperate bid to rally the Philippines in the second quarter.

It wasn't nearly enough as basketball powerhouse Australia made their first step towards winning a first-ever Asia Cup title.

The Philippines will face another tough test against Japan on day two of the competition.